Articles CPP Newsletter Online V23

Istanbul by Gail Presbey

Presbey, Gail (Univ. of Detroit-Mercy). “Istanbul: Days and Nights at the World Congress.” CPP Newsletter Vol. 23, Nos. 1-2 (Spring-Fall 2003).

I really enjoyed my stay in Istanbul at the World Congress of Philosophy. The conference was so big, and there were so many sessions, surely one person can’t give a complete impression of what went on. What follows is my account of the panels I heard.

But let me begin by describing a conference that met in conjunction with (actually, just prior to) the World Congress, on August 8 and 9. The conference was organized by George McLean of the Catholic University in Washington, D.C., and his organization, Council on Research and Values in Philosophy (CRVP). Its theme was how intercultural dialog could help resolve world problems. A couple hundred people were there; it was really an international crowd with extensive representation from Southern countries. For example, I met Stephen Omondi Owino from Kenya, he teaches at Kenyatta University, who was quite young, but George and others were impressed with his paper. Sessions were held at the Culture University.

One day began with a panel that included Tamara Albertini, a Swiss woman who grew up in Tunisia and now teaches in Hawaii. She wanted pluralism in Islam, and criticized the Saudis for insisting that Muslims must become more uniform in their practice. She also argued that fundamentalists were misinterpreting Islam. Whereas Islam originally categorized acts in five ways, as obligatory, recommended, permitted, discouraged, or forbidden, fundamentalists had overemphasized the obligatory and forbidden to the detriment of the middle categories. She also said that in Islam obligatory acts could be of two kinds: either required of each individual, or required of at least some persons in the community.

Fundamentalists, and even bin Laden she argued, emphasized the former, for example saying each individual must engage in jihad. In addition to several folks from Kazakhstan who debated the possibility or desirability of a national philosophy, an Indian woman, Dr. Habrani, argued in favor of religious pluralism.

In the afternoon there was a session on globalization. Dan Smith presented a paper, where he argued that we need to establish a new “hegemony” (the catchword of both conferences) based on a new idea of development. He appealed to Habermas’s idea of “will formation in common” and uncoerced consensus as models for his idea, and he suggested that sage philosophy could be a methodology to help us reach this goal. Quite an impressive debate started, spurred by Dan’s presentation. Most supported Dan’s critique of
globalization. Several especially agreed that the “academy” is part of the problem, being located in the “center.” Both in Dan’s session and the concluding panel, participants raised the issue of whether dialog could solve world problems (as the conference theme had suggested).

Professor Blanchette argued that dialog with the “masters” does not get very far, and he cited an anecdote in which Cheney agreed to meet with protestors, since they had a right to speak, but clearly he didn’t listen to what they had to say. Near the end of the day a debate ensued – do ideas lead the world or not? Someone cited the example of Vaclav Havel as evidence that ideas do shape the world. Others said we can’t rely on ethics alone, we have to address power issues.

August 10th was the beginning of the WCP, on the theme, “Philosophy Confronting World Problems.” The conference center was huge, the auditorium was packed with thousands, and the whole place surrounded by police, metal detectors and x-ray machines. Media cameras rolled. The President of Turkey, Ahmet Needet Sezer, talked. He said very nice things. He said the goal of education was to produce creative and free individuals who can question basic principles, become active subjects, and reach their own truth. He then made claims that philosophy could help do this, which would then make Turkey powerful and prosperous.
Well, let’s hope he’s right.

Ionna Kucaradi gave her speech. She started out, in that unmistakably philosophical fashion, “What is a world problem?” She said philosophers had to search for a common cause of seeming independent events, in order to give their diagnosis. She cautioned philosophers to not confuse causes with outcomes. She also spoke against the fundamentalists, who she said took advantage of the guarantee of freedom of speech as well as respect and tolerance for religions, to propose their own views which go against freedom of speech and human rights. (This tension with the fundamentalists resurfaced at her closing speech).

My session was the first session of the conference after the opening (there were about 12 sessions at once). There were supposed to be six panelists on philosophy in Africa, but I was the only one who showed up. Even the Chair was missing, so Kwasi Wiredu was volunteered all of a sudden to chair. Hountondji attended, and even Habermas! There were about 25 people there. I spoke for 40 minutes, and I took questions and answers for 1 hour ten minutes. The paper was on sage philosophy.

F. Ochieng’-Odhiambo (Formerly of University of Nairobi, now teaching in Barbados) divides Oruka’s sage philosophy project into three categories – early, middle and late. He then makes implicit arguments that the first stage is the best. He prefers “philosophic sagacity” – the first stage – because it clearly fights against ethnophilosophy, whereas by the third stage ethnophilosophy “fits comfortably” into sage philosophy according to him. I disagree that Oruka’s project incorporates ethnophilosophy, while I agree it does incorporate folk sages who would then represent the culture philosophy of their community. These are fine distinctions I realize. I then argue that the third stage of the project is the best, because its motivation is broad and means to be helpful to Kenyans in their own identity search.

I got a lot of good questions, such as: does the analytic/ phenomenology split in philosophy affect the sage philosophy project? Who has a right to speak – does sage philosophy address power relations? How do Oruka’s earlier works like Philosophy of Liberty and his book on Punishment and Terrorism fit into his life’s work? What is my role when I interview sages, particularly when I raise issues about their position on gender equality? People’s interest in African philosophy was sparked by the debate.

In the afternoon there was a session on Gandhi with Fred Dallmeyer, Doug Allen and Joseph Prabhu. It was held in the military museum across the street from the conference center, so the Gandhians were getting a kick out of the irony. The building was lined with lots of old cannons, and even had some old missiles out in front. The halls had famous sayings from Turkish military leaders over the years. I thought the panel covered a lot of obvious ground in their speeches, as if they purposively aimed their papers at a general audience.

The new twist was that they used Gandhian ideas to address the contemporary problems of terrorism, but I thought the leap was rather quick, along the lines of “Gandhi wouldn’t approve of terrorism, state terrorism, starvation and inequality etc.” However, we had a good discussion with the audience. I myself leapt upon the example of Joseph Prabhu when he said that in fact Gandhi made an exception to his general counsel against war and agreed that the Indian army should fight the Pakistanis in 1948 over the invasion of Kashmir. Allen and others agreed that what he said there was inconsistent with other passages where he counseled non-resistance and non-cooperation with invading armies. They then got engaged in some apologetics about it, such as how could Gandhi be so inconsistent, must be because he is human like everyone else. But what I really wanted was an outline of the actual reasons he gave, to see if they were criteria or not.

Karsten Struhl was also sharp in noticing problems with Doug Allen’s definition of terrorism which, since it emphasizes the intention of the terrorist, could rule out much of structural violence (which Allen had said was also terrorism) since perpetrators are not necessarily intentionally trying to terrorize (they might just be pursuing self-interest, with terror in the form of fear of starvation or unemployment as an unintended side effect). There was also an interesting debate about coercion – does it have a role in nonviolence or not? Can
there be such a thing as moral coercion, as Prabhu suggested, or is it an oxymoron?

On the 11th there was a plenary with Habermas, Vottimo (of Italy) and Wiredu. Habermas was hard to understand but interesting. In a nutshell, he talked about how Kant emphasized the rights of world citizens in a cosmopolitan age. He didn’t foresee the rise of nationalism in the 19th century. Nationalism emphasized instead the sovereignty of states based on their exclusive control of territory and immunity from prosecution by other states.

The problem of the nineteenth century was that only a small number of nations considered themselves to be peers of each other, bound by international law, whereas they considered themselves able to colonize other weaker countries. Now in the twentieth century the United Nations has been based on the idea that international law is a law among sovereign states who have rights to non-intervention. This idea is now being challenged by those who want an international criminal court that will override immunity to prosecution. Also there is the push to override sovereignty in the name of international security against terrorism, as well as to bring justice to criminal states and order to failed states.

Recognition of sovereignty is now dependent on one’s compliance with human rights and security guidelines. Habermas seems to approve of these challenges to sovereignty insofar as they come closer to Kant’s cosmopolitan ideal, but he fears that the current context, where one superpower dominates, brings a harsh asymmetry to Kant’s ideal. He therefore approves of Europe’s attempt to become a counterweight to the USA. Since values change from country to country it will be hard to judge what justice among nations would be. He
prefers a legalization, rather than moralization, of war, since he fears that a moralized war cannot be kept within limits (as Karl Schmidt cautioned). I was left with the question of whether Habermas could be consistent in approving of abridgement of sovereignty in the case of the World Court while still condemning
ways that the “war on terrorism” ignores sovereignty of nations in its ceaseless search for security.

Gianni Vottimo addressed the topic, “The End of Philosophy in the Age of Democracy.” He noted that the end of metaphysics (citing critiques by Popper, Nietzsche, and Heidegger against claims of absolute truth in ontology) coincides with the re-emergence of democracy. The infallible philosopher is a thing of the past. (I realize this account is too brief.) And then it was Wiredu’s turn. I was a bit concerned because the Chair of the session introduced Wiredu as the one who would provide the perspective of “the Other.” (In the end, this Chair quite inaccurately, almost oppositely, summarized what Wiredu had said). Wiredu interrogated the word “dialog” and asked what it meant to have an intercultural dialog. When we enter dialog we cannot be overconfident and think that we cannot err. We must make clear at the beginning what the different cultures bring to the table, and the contributions to dialog must be taken or rejected on independent considerations. He argued that we must cast away both relativism and religious dogmatism in order to have true dialog. Relativism presumes that there are irreducible differences, whereas Wiredu only thinks that there are possible impediments to intercultural understandings. Wiredu then reiterated his famous claim that traditional African
religions did not used to be dogmatic (because they had no institutions to enforce dogma like Western religions). He thought that resort to God’s “revelation” by anyone did not help intercultural dialog. The Chair then misunderstood and said in his summary that Wiredu was advocating relativism.

In the afternoon was another plenary with Agnes Heller, Robert Bernasconi, and Thomas Pogge on “Inequality, Poverty, and Development.” Bernasconi argued that people have a right to charity, and if they aren’t given
what they need, they have a right to take what they need to survive. Bernasconi noted that this right came into conflict with Locke’s notion of property and money, because property was defined as what no one can take from me without my consent. Bernasconi argued that addressing the poverty issue is the true task of philosophy today. The current idea of development forecloses all novelty in searching for solutions to poverty. He suggests that statistically it can be shown to be rather easy to lift the lowest wage-earners from one to two dollars a day, but that system would still be unjust. Pogge showed the problems with the definitions of poverty used by the World Bank. He argued that their statistics were by any account unscientific and arbitrary. Pogge asserted that according to his studies, one third of human deaths are due to poverty-related causes. Forty six per cent of humans live on less than two dollars a day and own only 1.5 per cent of the world’s income. He raised the issue of personal responsibility – what are any of us required to do? His answer was that we must do enough that if everyone were to do the same, it would solve the poverty problem (regardless of whether others do so or not). While some blame corruption in Southern countries for their poverty problems, Pogge pointed out the role of Northern countries, who basically send the message that regardless of how rulers take over power, once they do so they will be rewarded with lucrative business contracts and loans.

Heller followed up with a more theoretical discussion. She said that we needed to focus on the two pillars of modern ethics: the good person and the good citizen (with a just constitution). The latter’s main virtue is solidarity; the former’s virtue is authenticity. As citizens we must freely found our constitution and take up our responsibilities. As individuals we must found our own ethics in our own self-certainty. We cannot rely on reason to decide for us, because reason hits antinomies. For example, Socrates argued that it is better to suffer evil than commit it; but another reasoner could prove the opposite. So-called self-evident truths are self evident only to the signatories, she asserted. We must decide our own destiny, she asserted. Heller also concluded with some criticisms of how the other two speakers had addressed the issue of poverty in a statistical way. She argued that it is not easy to talk of those who die of poverty and separate them from those who die of violence, because the two overlap. Also, one shouldn’t just say for example that a certain percentage of the world’s population dies of violence – one must mention the specifics, who is killed where and why? When the Jews are killed in Germany does it help just to say that three per cent of the world’s people died violently? So these overarching statistics obscure much important information.

Later in the afternoon there was a panel on “Reconciliation and Forgiveness” with two speakers who held opposing views. Leonard Harris argued that tolerance is a virtue only for a justified purpose. He notes the irony that some countries that promoted tolerance also practiced terrorism, and gave as examples apartheid
South Africa and the United States and other slave societies. He argues against the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) of South Africa which holds that tolerance is better than resentment and expects Africans to forgive their victimizers. He claims that wealth accumulation is still racist in South Africa and that there has been no perceptible change since the end of apartheid. Instead of forgiveness of injustice, black South Africans need compensation. Resentment has a function; it helps one to be vigilant against future wrongs. He argues that the virtue of forgiveness is more like courage than honesty – it should be voluntary, not required. He argues that justice must exist institutionally before individuals can be expected to forgive.

This position was countered by a German philosopher named Klaus-Michael Kodalle. Kodalle argued that forgiveness is incorporated into formal rule of law of societies in transition. In fact the spirit of forgiveness is a precondition for establishing a rule of law. He gave several examples of the psychological benefits of forgiveness and how they later led to the normalization of relations. By dragging atrocities into the open as in the TRC, the deeds can be expressed and recognized as an injustice, and only then can they be “decontaminated” and even forgotten. He cautions that we cannot reconcile too quickly before fully remembering. Each of us must also recognize our own evil, so that we can see how we somehow resemble the “enemy.”

This panel inspired a lot of questions. The first audience participant argued cynically that most governments go through reconciliation as a matter of expediency. Others were concerned that amnesty was used as a weak surrogate of the spirit of forgiveness. Iris Young questioned Harris, wondering if he was counseling resentment as a virtue? She suggested that maybe indignation or anger would be better. Harris argued that he saw virtues as instrumental, not intrinsic. While he didn’t counsel resentment, he thought that if people happened to experience it, they should not be obliged to give it up. Eduardo Mendieta suggested that forgiveness was a compound virtue based on the simpler virtues of self-respect, humility, and magnanimity. Workineh Kelbessa suggested that traditional African elders had already mastered the techniques of reconciliation, but Harris upheld that reconciliation is not necessarily a virtue. Kodalle responded to questions with reference to Arendt’s emphasis on political forgiveness in her book, The Human Condition. He mentioned several cases of individuals or groups of persons whose identities were so caught up with being victims, that they couldn’t forgive and forget, and that eventually destroyed

That night on the rooftop of the Sari Konak Hotel, Bob Stone and Betsy Bowman hosted a Radical Philosophy Association (RPA) party. About thirty people up there on the roof! They were all discussing whether they wanted to join Bob and Betsy in starting a “radical” retirement community in San Miguel, Mexico. Even Enrique Dussel was there. The debate at one point centered on the question, “Why Mexico?” Globalization is a problem in a lot of places. This later morphed into the idea that maybe the Russians and the Turks would set up similar “points of resistance” in their countries that would be in loose collaboration with the Mexico group.

Let me skip now to Wednesday August 13. We had two sessions for Concerned Philosophers for Peace in a row. These were sessions organized by Bill Gay in conjunction with the Russian Philosophical Society led by Alexander Chumakov. The Russians had all come to Istanbul on a big boat and they were docked in a port in Istanbul, so the boat doubled as their hotel. The sessions were crowded with about fourteen people listed, but in reality about eight people presented each two hour session. I was charged with sitting in front of the speakers and holding up a two-minute warning sign after six minutes, and a stop sign at 8 minutes, and then the translator had time to give a summary translation. Bill Gay chaired the first session and Alexander Buzgalin chaired the second session. Deb Peterson and John Bryant were the other Americans from CPP presenting.

I presented in the second session. I will not mention more details because Bill said he will submit a summary (please see “With Russian Colleagues” in this newsletter).

In the afternoon there was a panel with on “Pragmatism, War and Peace” by the Society for the Advancement of American Philosophy. Omar Dahbour and John Shook were talking about the pragmatists’s stance on war. Shook went into some detail about how Dewey changed his stance on war during World War I. He was against the war before it started, but once it had begun, he thought he had to make the best of it. It is always a “pragmatic temptation” to find some use for war, Shook cautions. So Dewey tried to control war rather than eradicate it. He considered war a human institution that was capable of being reconstructed.

Dewey saw war as an opportunity for education. Instead of succumbing to war hysteria (a temptation in democracies where masses must be mobilized) or sentimentality, people should instead look at moral arguments for when to go to war, and what means to use. A lively debate ensued afterward, with Omar Dahbour raising the question of whether so-called “pinpoint bombing” is an example of humanizing war, or if it too easily makes intervention palatable. Others wondered how the emphasis on precision bombing could be reconciled with the recent “shock and awe” strategy used by USA forces in Iraq. Dahbour also thought that supposed human moral progress was “toothless” in the face of rapid technological advances. Shook conceded that while Dewey had insisted that democracies could control war, nevertheless even the USA is a
very imperfect democracy by Dewey’s criteria.

Thursday there were two big plenary sessions, one with Peter Singer and Iris Young, and a South African named John Pendleberry. The latter argued that poverty is avoidable and compromises people’s individual autonomy. Both Singer and Young addressed the Iraq war and I thought their papers were good.

Singer began by noting that technology had now developed to the point where “enemies” could wreak large scale havoc cheaply, and so nations can’t exercise “containment” as they did during the Cold War. Instead, the USA’s “National Security Strategy” argues that the state must act pre-emptively against “immanent threats.” In this way the USA has as its goal to possess military strength beyond challenge. However, Singer points out that moral rights don’t adhere to one nation alone.

According to the criteria by which the USA acted against Iraq, North Korea could justify a pre-emptive attack against the USA, since the USA has weapons of mass destruction and has been threatening to use them against North Korea. Singer argued that the National Security Council of the United Nations should be reformed. Why should the war veto power belong to four countries that are Christian, and none that are Islamic? Why doesn’t India get a vote – based on its size? Singer also finds an interesting precedent. When the USA was trying to gather votes for its own position on attacking Iraq, it suggested that the French veto should be disregarded, that the important thing would be to see if the USA had a majority vote from the Council. Singer says that if this is the case, then the USA should agree to try to dismantle the veto system altogether, in favor of a democratic vote.

Iris Young offered her “Modest Reflections on Hegemony.” She argued that people are living under a global dictatorship. The USA dominates the world, yet most people do not live in the USA and so did not have a chance to vote in that government. However, she hopes that another world is possible. Referring to Locke’s notion of the state of nature, in which a person who serves as her own judge of cases cannot protect the judgment against her own bias or error, she argues that the USA currently faces the same problem. Without
submitting itself to a World Court, the USA will not be able to make fair judgments of when other countries are in danger and in need of help or intervention. The USA should instead see itself as engaged in relational autonomy and mutual obligations. Young argues that it is necessary to withdraw cooperation from this world dictatorship. We must isolate the USA and the international corporate powers allied with it. We need debt cancellation, a global tax, and a surcharge on financial transactions to slow capital flow. Finally we must develop a transnational military force that can challenge USA military might.

Not everyone in the audience agreed with the speakers. Seyla Benhabib challenged Young, saying that Bush was not yet a dictator, he could be voted out. She thought that Young’s use of sixties rhetoric of anti-imperialism was unhelpful. Young aptly responded that while the USA is a democracy, it can still exercise dictatorship over other countries (and in fact, imperialism practiced by “democratic” countries did just that). One audience member challenged Singer, saying that some evil regimes in the world deserved to be overthrown. Singer agreed but asked, who should decide which regimes should be overthrown? Perhaps a reformed U.N. Security Council could make those decisions.

A late afternoon session on Global Institutions and Global Responsibilities brought together a large number of panelists into a roundtable of sorts. Nancy Kukoch of International Relations, University of Toronto, focused on unarticulated issues of fairness that crop up in WTO meetings, the Kyoto agreements, and other international bodies. She called for a systematic treatment of fairness, which would be more aware of differential burdens and benefits. According to the WTO’s own principles, it is committed to “fair trade” – but
questions arise: what is unfair protectionism? What is fair sanction? Other panelists brought up the question of human rights. Otto Hotte who teaches at Tubigen argued that we can separate questions of the legitimacy of rights from their origin – in this way, advocating universal human rights even if their origin is Western. For Matthias Kaufmann, hegemony destroys the idea of equality of all humans.

On Friday afternoon CPP and Bill Gay had another session with the Russian philosophers, in which Dan Smith was presenting. When Kai and I got there, we saw that the Russians were not there – it turns out there was a scheduling error and a bunch of them were presenting elsewhere at the same time! So suddenly Dan was the only speaker, similar to how I had become the only speaker in the first session. There were about ten of us and we had a discussion until 7:30.

On Saturday, the conference was hosting a performance of a local famous dance group. They mixed traditional Turkish folkloric dance with modern dance called “Magic You Ney.” There were at least fifty dancers, all young and beautiful, and they changed into so many different costumes, the dances were so energetic and lively! They had a raised platform in back where some highly costumed dancers would do dances in the interludes (while the others were changing costume I presume) including a Sufi dancer, a mermaid, two old women spinning tin plates on sticks, an old Sultan who falls in love with a bride in white, etc. The auditorium was packed, I ended up sitting in the balcony because all the main seats were filled and people had neglected going up to the balcony. They were actually excellent seats up there. The only complaint was one politically incorrect dance where some male dancers put on African masks and shirts to make them look black, and they danced around a lone white woman who seemed to be in distress. I think it was as if the African men were her nightmare that she had to wrestle with. But the woman was incredibly flexible. She could bend in half backwards!

I will leave coverage of the closing party, and closing sessions, to someone else to describe. All in all I will say that it was heartening to see so many philosophers apply their skills to shedding light on the world’s problems and putting forward sound judgments and practical analyses. It was easy for this CPP member to feel at home in the discussions and debates of the conference. If only all philosophy conferences were this meaningful!

Articles CPP Newsletter Online V23

With Russian Colleagues by William Gay

Gay, William (Univ. of North Carolina – Charlotte). “With Russian Colleagues At the World Congress.” CPP Newsletter Vol. 23, Nos. 1-2 (Spring-Fall 2003).

For over twenty-five years members of Concerned Philosophers for Peace have worked closely with Russian colleagues. One form of cooperation has been holding joint sessions by CPP and the Russian Philosophical Society (RPS) at the World Congress of Philosophy. At the XXth World Congress of Philosophy, held in Boston in 1998, three joint sessions were held. Most recently, at the XXIst World Congress of Philosophy, held in Istanbul in August 2003, we again held three joint sessions.

The theme of the XXIst World Congress of Philosophy was “Philosophy Facing World Problems.” The joint sessions conducted by CPP and RPS were on the general theme of “Philosophy and Globalization Problems.” These sessions were organized by Alexander Chumakov, the First Vice President of the Russian Philosophical Society, and by me, on behalf of CPP. Two of our sessions were held on August 13, and the third was held on August 15. The sessions were on the following topics: “Philosophical Problems of Individuals and Nations in the Global System, “Philosophical Problems of Security in the Global System,” and “Philosophical Problems of Sustainability in the Global System.” Members of CPP who gave presentations were John Bryant, Deb Peterson, Gail Presbey, Dan Smith, and myself. At our sessions, translation from English to Russian and from Russian to English was provided by Nikolai Biryukov of Moscow State Institute for International Relations (MGIMO-University) and Alexander Buzgalin of Lomonosov Moscow State University.

In addition, a special meeting was held on August 13 to release the Global Studies Encyclopedia in its English and Russian editions. This encyclopedia, with 430 articles by 278 authors from 28 countries, was also the result of cooperation between CPP and RPS. At the special meeting for the release of the encyclopedia, comments were given by V.S Stiopin, President of the Russian Philosophical Society, by Chumakov, and by me, and translation was provided by Anastasia Mitrofanova of the Institute for Contemporary International Studies (in Moscow) and Associate Editor of the encyclopedia. The encyclopedia has two Russian and two American sponsors: the Russian Philosophical Society, the Russian Ecological Academy, Concerned Philosophers For Peace, and the Paideia Project of Boston University. [I.I.Mazour, A.N. Chumakov, and W.C. Gay, Editors, Global Studies Encyclopedia (Moscow: Raduga, 2003), 592 pp. ISBN 5-05-005719-1 for the English edition and ISBN 5-05-005661-6 for the Russian edition.] For more information on the encyclopedia, go to: <; and click on English version.

A very valuable aspect of our meetings was the opportunity to establish direct personal contacts, especially after each of our joint sessions. Another very enjoyable opportunity resulted when RPS invited CPP members and others to attend a gala reception aboard the “Philosophical Ship” (the “Maria Ermolva” that brought many of the Russians to Istanbul) to celebrate our cooperation. The Russians were glad to hear CPP members expressing criticism of recent U.S. military actions, and we appreciated their applauding our criticisms which was a welcome alternative to the response we often receive at home.

Book Reviews CPP Newsletter Online V23

Weigart and Crews’ Teaching for Justice by Gail Presbey

Presbey, Gail (Univ. of Detroit – Mercy). “Just Education: A Review of Kathleen Maas Weigert and Robin J. Crews, eds. Teaching for Justice: Concepts and Models for Service-Learning in Peace Studies. Washington, D.C.: American Association for Higher Education, 1999.” CPP Newsletter Vol. 23, Nos. 1-2 (Spring-Fall 2003).

This book is filled with good practical advice on how to use service learning to help students gain a deeper understanding of the field of peace and justice studies. In what follows, I will highlight the key ideas that it conveys and conclude with an evaluation. As Weigart explains in the introduction, the goal of a peace and justice course is not just to master certain materials, but to help students become committed to action that will make the world a better place (9).

The service-learning placements make students cross over from theory into practice, possibly starting a lifelong good habit. Peace and Justice studies is not a “value free” discipline; rather, it is in favor of peace, justice, equality, and the meeting of people’s basic needs (12). Weigart cautions that the term “service” sometimes carries the connotation of “noblesse oblige” (16).

So Elise Boulding begins with an important clarification in the preface: she argues that service learning should be an experience of partnering with communities, not a case of do-gooders who go out and give and expect to receive nothing in return. Michael Schratz and Rob Walker argue that “People learn from the experience of being placed in unfamiliar settings,” especially when they are expected to become competent at some task. Disrupting students’ lives can cause learning to happen more rapidly. People are “polyphasic” in their learning, which means that they learn more than one thing at a time. Asking someone to leave the comfort of their own social setting and encounter a new culture or micro-culture amounts to encouraging them to become ethnographic researchers of sorts.

While their “plunge” into the new context can never be complete, since they will always be seen as outsiders at the margins of the culture, they can still take the role of “legitimate peripheral participation” just as ethnographers do. They will notice many small things that are different in the new context in which they have placed themselves. They will have to read people’s facial and body gestures to try to grasp power dynamics between the people they meet and work with. But, upon first exposure, students may not always correctly grasp these things.

Like travelers, they may not know when they have acted inappropriately, been misunderstood, or transgressed defined boundaries, until after it happens. Being put into a new context also challenges our own self-identity, as we notice different things about ourselves than we otherwise would. Students might feel forlorn as they long for more familiar surroundings, but despite their temporary discomfort, real learning can begin to take place.

Schratz and Walker argue that people learn more in “critical incidents”; which are situations that happen to themselves, often connected to loss, and requiring readjustment; than they do under the conditions of their normal routines. While this sounds painful, it can also have a transforming effect, since it requires that people rethink issues central to their lives (33-38). Schratz and Walker explain that students start out service learning from the position of incompetence, unconsciously or consciously. They will hopefully move to competence in the new setting, but likewise, their competence may be conscious (as they struggle to find a way in which to fit in and work), or unconscious (if they just happen to fit in without being quite aware of how).

The authors suggest that service learning should become a collaborative effort between students rather than an individual one. Students need each other to keep one another from tumbling from the heights of idealism and sinking into cynicism. Their attempts at service might lead them to confront the, “emotional warfare, naked ambition, and exploitation found in some volunteer agencies dedicated to radical change” (42). Students naively entering into service work may not be prepared for such possibilities. It is important for students to process these insights together. They need to publicly question the institutions they are working within, themselves, and their teachers. Encouraging them to do so requires that teachers also take risks, but according to the authors, there is no shortcut to learning.

Experience, and group reflection on the experience, is necessary to learning (39-44). David Whitten Smith and Michael Hasl continue in this line of pedagogical thinking by drawing upon Paulo Freire, whose idea of “revolutionary praxis” involves: 1) Changing your world view, 2) Broadening narrow frameworks, and 3) Recognizing people are active agents in history, and becoming one yourself! (55)

They describe the dialectical “circle of praxis” as having four stages. First, there is the personal experience of inserting oneself into a situation of poverty, violence, or injustice. The authors note that students must share with each other their experiences of those who are marginalized, to ensure that such experiences do not simply reinforce stereotypes. Studetns are asked to write out their expectations ahead of time, and then to check their current experiences against their original expectations.

Secondly, they engage in the descriptive analysis of how the culture of the host organization historically and currently operates in its social, economic and political context. This could include the questions: “Who is making the decisions here? Who is benefitting from the decisions? Who is paying the cost?” Students could also ask, “Why does such poverty exist?.Why can’t we organize our society to meet everyone’s basic needs? Is there some larger flaw in our systems that defeats our efforts to organize,” for instance, jobs for all who need them?

Thirdly, they work out a normative analysis of the situation, which identifies the moral values at stake, and imagines how the situation could be changed to be more morally satisfying. The authors suggest assigning students to write a Utopia. They argue that “Utopias help people break out of the ordinary, recognize the damage caused by structures normally taken for granted, and see new possibilities.” After that assignment, students are then asked to write a “Possitopia,” which is a realistically achievable improvement of current reality.

Fourthly, they develop an action plan, which involves identifying the skills, strategies, and policies needed to make the desired transformation. Students should do something constructive to help ameliorate the situation in which they were placed (57-61). Sue Marullo, Mark Lance, and Henry Schwarz argue that service learning is especially important at Jesuit universities.

In 1995, the 34th General Congregation of the Society of Jesus insisted that every Jesuit ministry, including universities, support social justice. This can be done in several ways: “a) direct service and accompaniment of the poor; b) developing an awareness of the demands of justice and the sense of social responsibility necessary to achieve it; and c) participating in social mobilization for the creation of a more just social order.” (48) The Jesuit approach emphasizes how peace and justice depend upon each other.

Positive peace (not just temporary cessation of hostilities) requires social structures that are fundamentally just. Service learning can help students gain insights into the underlying causes of social problems – problems which, when magnified, often lead to war and violence.

Teaching for Justice is filled with practical advice about how to create guidelines, assignments, and evaluations of service learning. Faculty from Georgetown University explain that their senior theses projects in service learning include empirical research, normative reflection, action programs, and conceptual analyses (50).

Robin Crews outlines basic procedural guidelines for his courses in nonviolence and these seem like they would be effective in any course that relies heavily on discussion. Firstly, we must respect each other and therefore agree to disagree. Secondly, we must listen carefully to what others in the class say. (Perhaps the counseling strategy of paraphrasing what we think the other person said, and asking them about our accuracy before responding to their remarks, could help us to be sure that we really did understand the other person’s point). Thirdly, we must seek to understand each other and therefore check our immediate impulse to prove others wrong and ourselves right. Fourthly, we agree not to interrupt others (30).

What can peace studies accomplish? Robin Crews shares his experience as founding executive director of the Peace Studies Association. He admits with seeming dejection that Peace Studies has not even sufficiently affected academia, let alone the world. Financial constraints and reactionary downsizing have resulted in dwindling support for such programs (24-5). His concerns were echoed throughout the book.

Faculty at Georgetown University note that they constantly face the problem of limited resources and challenges to the academic legitimacy of their programs (52). Faculty at Roehampton Institute note that colleagues often think of service learning as “lightweight, soft-headed, or escapist” (103). With these kinds of financial and ideological attacks leveled against Peace Studies, it is a wonder that we still have opportunities to teach Peace Studies. And, yet, the need for courses such as these has not diminished.

The expansion of the military budget and increase in interventionary wars is rather an indication that peaceful alternatives are being neglected, and that they are now more needed than ever. With the increase in the military budget comes a decrease in funds for programs to help our nation’s poor, and hence, also, a need for more volunteers. As poverty increases there are more opportunities for students to witness first-hand the suffering of others and to be of service to them, while simultaneously reflecting on the social conditions which foster such disparities in distribution of wealth.

Peace Studies courses, tailored as service learning courses, are therefore especially imperative at this point. The authors of this collection have charted helpful road maps, and the strength of these essays lies in the careful attention given to the stages of emotion and insight through which students pass during their service learning experiences. The guidelines provided on how teachers can shape assignments so as to avoid common pitfalls are also particularly valuable to the beginning teacher.

Book Reviews CPP Newsletter Online V23

Orizio’s Talk of the Devil by John Kultgen

Kultgen, John (Univ. of Missouri – Columbia). “Harder the Fall?: A Review of Ricardo Orizio’s Talk of the Devil: Encounters with Seven Dictators. Trans. Avril Bardoni. NY: Walker & Co., 2003.”; CPP Newsletter Vol. 23, Nos. 1-2 (Spring-Fall 2003).

Interviews with seven deposed autocrats are the substance of this work. “I deliberately chose those [tyrants] who had fallen from power in disgrace,” writes author Ricardo Orizio, “because those who fall on their feet tend not to examine their own conscience.” In his introduction he asks, “What goes through the mind of someone who has had everything, lost everything and has time to start again? How does a one-time dictator, whom the history books describe as ruthless, immoral and power-crazed, grow old? What does he tell his children and grandchildren about himself? What does he tell himself?”

Unfortunately, the responses of the interviewees are sketchy and do not answer either these questions, or many others, that we would have liked Orizio to ask. The accidental nature of the sample he has put together makes it risky to draw lessons from it, and he avoids doing so. He simply provides the cases and lets the reader learn from them. In what follows, I will suggest, however, that a few generalizations might be drawn from this work. They would, however, need to be tested by reflection on further examples of modern autocratic rule before they could be accepted.

First, here’s a list of the dictators with whom Orizio spoke:

Idi Amin Dada, Uganda (I971-1979), was deposed by Tanzania after a failed invasion of that country. He was given refuge as a Muslim by Gaddafi in Libya and then granted permission to stay Saudi Arabia on an “extended pilgrimage.” He lived comfortably with his family in Jeddah on a stipend provided by the Saudi government until his death in August 2003. At the time of the interview he was still dreaming of a return to power — and this even though he is accused of killing up to 300,000 people during his reign and committing acts of personal barbarism such as presiding over the execution of enemies and eating their flesh.

Jean-Bedel Bokassa, Central African Republic (1966-1979), was first installed and then deposed by the French. He is accused of killing up to 100,000 of his subjects and, like Amin, engaging in acts of barbarism and cannibalism. He was prosecuted, convicted, imprisoned and condemned to death and subsequently pardoned by new government of Central Africa. He continued to live in the capitol city Bangui until his death in 1996. Although he was a Muslim, he claimed that the pope had anointed him as the Thirteenth Apostle during his reign. He evidently wore the white robes of a saint for his interview with Orizio.

Wojciech Jaruzelski, Poland (1981-1990), who, as premier of his country, declared martial law and attempted to suppress Solidarity, claiming that these measures were necessary to prevent Soviet intervention during collapse of the Eastern bloc. He was voted out of office in a free election. He lives in Warsaw on a government pension as former head of state. He has successfully defended himself against prosecution on a charge that he ordered troops to fire on demonstrators during a time of unrest.

Enver and Nexhmije Hoxha, Albania (1944-1984), ruled over a tightly regimented closed society for four decades until Enver retired due to ill health. He died in 1985. The pair ruthlessly suppressed opposition and kept Albania isolated from the world, including other communist countries. Nexhmije now lives modestly in Tirana, sternly guarding the memory of her husband and their reign together.

Jean-Claude (Baby Doc) Duvalier, Haiti (1971-1986), was installed as President for Life at age 19 by his ailing father, Papa Doc. He was ill-suited to rule, even dictatorially, and during his time in power was dominated by his wife Michele and her associates. With the assistance of Tonton Macoute, they continued the Papa Doc’s practices of suppressing opposition and looting the country, and were eventually ousted by the mulatto elite of Haiti with help from US. Duvalier now lives comfortably in southern France on what is left of his fortune and has a new wife. He trusts that either exiled supporters, or voodoo gods, will return him to power.

Mengistu Haile-Mariam, Ethiopia (1974-1991) came to power in a military coup. He is rumored to have personally strangled Haile Selasse, and attempted, with the assistance of the USSR, to put an end to feudal tribalism and create a rigorous socialist state. Unwise wars with Eritrea and Somalia and failure to provide relief during a catastrophic drought led to death of hundreds of thousands. These were the result of over-extending his powers and of mismanagement, rather than of a genuine effort to suppress opposition, though he attempted that as well. He was deposed by another coup when USSR collapsed, and since he had not amassed a personal fortune, he now lives modestly in exile in Harare, Zimbabwe.

Slobadan Milosevic and Mira Markovic, Yugoslavia/Serbia, (1989-2000). Slobadan was a banker who was pushed into politics by his professor wife Mira, a dogmatic Marxist sociologist. It is not clear whether the couple was motivated more by ideology, power, or the desire to enrich themselves. He was deposed by the Serbs themselves after the NATO response to ethnic cleansing in Bosnia and Kosovo and is being tried for crimes against humanity in The Hague. Mira continues to be politically active in Belgrade.

In each of the chapters of the work, Orizio first describes his efforts to arrange the interviews, then reviews some of the details of the dictator’s reign, summarizes the interviews themselves, and reports the testimony of others connected with the subjects. The portion of the narratives devoted to each of these varies. Large portions of the chapters on Idi Amin and Mira Markovic are devoted to the author’s difficulty in catching up with his subjects. In the case of Hoxha and Milosevic, Orizio had to settle for interviews with the wives rather than the front men, though the wives had been deeply involved in their husbands’ activities and were plausible surrogates.

The interviews themselves occupy only a few pages and most are not very informative, even when the subjects (e.g. Bokassa, Mengitsu) happened to be garrulous. Amin could not be brought to talk about his atrocities or even his grandiose gestures when in power, though he displayed a hearty and jovial personality and seemed well thought of by those in Saudi Arabia who knew him. Bokassa appeared to Orizio to be mentally ill, while Jaruzelski, Hoxha, and Markovic gave the impression of being austere and defensive, but still willing to debate ideology, at least on a superficial level. Mengitsu was evidently somewhat more loquacious, but still neither particularly revealing nor penitent in any way. Finally, Duvalier’s present wife, Veronique, seems to have dominated the conversation which Orizio had with him, and hence relatively little important information seems to have been revealed in this case as well.

As far as any sort of examination of conscience goes, it is hardly surprising that most of the deposed autocrats deny they did anything wrong. Not only do they not indulge much in self-examination or critical reflections about their pasts, but they claim that, if they used harsh measures, it was for the good of their country, and also that they lost power not because they abused it, but because they were betrayed by disloyal friends, overwhelmed by circumstances, or defeated by unscrupulous enemies. Several were still under the illusion that they would be returned to power by loyal supporters – and, among these, Amin and Duvalier expected that such a change in their circumstances was imminent.

Naturally, deposed despots are not happy with their present circumstances. But they consistently deny that the course they chose when they ruled was responsible for their condition. They only remember the joys of absolute power and want it back, and express no regrets, but only anger at the tides of fortune and the perfidy of their enemies. Plato’s contention that absolute tyrants are made miserable by their insatiable appetites and lack of reliable friends appears, at first read, to be confirmed by testimony of these individuals – until one reflects on the fact that they are thoroughly deluded about their current life circumstances, the causes of their being deposed, and their ability to regain a hold on the power they once had. They enjoyed power and the wealth it brings and now they miss it – once again, the matter seems entirely straightforward until the reader realizes the level of self-deception and delusion that colors their present states of mind. And, unfortunately, it is this question that Orizio has not addressed — either in the context of his interviews with these people, or independently of them. It is perhaps equally unsettling to think that many of the rest of us might feel and act in a similarly unreflective fashion given the opportunity – and Orizio also does not, unfortunately, extract from his conversations with these “devils” any relevant lessons on this, either.

The talents of self-deception, pretense and rationalization seem to be as strong in deposed dictators as they are in those still in power. In fact, the acts of self-deception and deceiving others, respectively, seem to be interrelated in a sort of vicious cycle leading to ever greater perversity. In other words, the practice of self-deception further enhances the skills these people already possess with regard to deceiving others. Once they had control of the instruments of propaganda, all of them enjoyed ardent support of privileged groups under their rule and at least the passive acquiescence, if not loyal support of the public. Only the European tyrants (in Poland, Albania, and Yugoslavia) were deposed by anything like a popular uprising — and this only after a systemic collapse had occurred elsewhere (in the Soviet Union and Eastern Bloc). In Africa and Haiti, they were deposed either by neighbors (in Uganda, by Tanzania) or internal factions with the aid of outsiders (in Central Africa, by the French; in Haiti, by the Americans).

One thing which the author did which may be questionable was to lump those dictators driven by ideology, or at least those using it as a cover (Jaruzelski, Hoxha, Mengistu, and to a lesser degree Milosevic) together with brutal thugs interested only in power, wealth, self-indulgence, megalomania, and cruelty (Amin, Bokassa, Duvalier). It was particularly inappropriate to include Jaruzelski with the rest. He makes a good case that he did the best he could for his nation under impossible conditions, and claims that if he made mistakes, they were indeed mistakes, not cynical maneuvers for the purpose of self-aggrandizement. Mengistu might claim this for himself, as might Hoxha and Milosevic, much less persuasively; whereas, the most Amin, Bokassa and Duvalier could claim is that their countries are not significantly better off now than when they were under their rule.

The thought that these addicts of power were all deposed, some sooner, some later, provides little consolation for the horrors they inflicted. In fact, several of them were replaced by others like them and many parts of the world are still under the rule of their peers.

If there is a lesson to be draws from Orizio’s work, it is that merely deposing dictators does not institute democracy, law and order, or even a modicum of justice. In those countries where there is a tradition of citizen detachment from the political process, the instruments of power will simply be passed on to individuals who are equally diabolical – and they will continue to use them to suppress rivals by brutal means and ensure that they control a protection racket with which to exploit the populace.

Orizio’s work also reveals that it makes a great deal of difference whether those who acquire rule are hired guns (Amin, Bokassa, Mengitsu), heirs to power (Duvalier), or products of the bureaucracy and its ideology (Hoxha, to an extent Milosevic and Jaruzelski). In other words, their origins seem to affect both the way they rule and how they are deposed. But, once again, there is, unfortunately, not enough in the author’s accounts of these individuals to justify further comment on these important matters.

The work is an easy read and can be absorbed over a weekend. Its loose organization makes for variety and also adds an element of spontaneity and depth. The narratives give a sense of what it is like to be a journalist in pursuit of elusive quarries — and then to have to determine how exactly to deal with them once one has caught up with them.

The author is sometimes sketchy with dates, so one has to consult other sources to determine the exact chronology of the events he is describing. The various chapters of the book seem to be arranged in the sequence in which the interviews took place.

Talk of the Devil is anecdotal rather than analytical or philosophical. However, it provides some substance for reflection on the uses and abuses of power, and is therefore devoting some time to.

Articles CPP Newsletter Online V23

World Events and Responses by William Gay

Gay, William (Univ. of North Carolina – Charlotte). "World Events and Philosophical Responses: My Years Editing the CPP Newsletter 1987-2002." CPP Newsletter Vol. 23, Nos. 1-2 (Spring-Fall 2003).

Over the last sixteen years, violent conflicts have been prominent globally. Too often, USA military forces have been involved. Fortunately, philosophers have regularly responded with critical assessments. During the time I have served as editor of CPP Newsletter, we have addressed Operation Just Cause in Panama; Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm in Iraq; issues of genocide and humanitarian intervention in Bosnia and Somalia, Haiti, and Kosovo; the India-Pakistan nuclear arms race; the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001; and the subsequent “war on terrorism” that has already resulted in the USA’s military overthrow of governments in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Between 1987 and 2002, the CPP newsletter spanned volumes 7-22 and published nearly 100 articles, over two dozen book reviews, and a dozen bibliographies for a total of almost 600 pages that include seven special issues. From 1987 through 1992, each issue was 16 pages (32 pages a year). Beginning in 1993, the newsletter increased to 20 pages per issue (40 pages a year) with Judith Presler serving as Book Review Editor. Now, she and I are turning the newsletter over to Greg Moses, Wendy Hamblet, and Deb Peterson. They are a talented team, and we wish them all the best.

Our organization began in 1981, and from 1981 through 1986, Stephen Anderson edited the newsletter. CPP has now been operating for 22 years and is a well-established professional organization. Besides our newsletter, we have an annual meeting, sessions at the divisional meetings of the APA (see notice of upcoming sessions in this newsletter), and the Philosophy of Peace (POP) Special Series that is published by Rodopi. The POP books and other CPP volumes published by Longwood and Rowman & Littlefield already total ten books, and the number is climbing. During 2003, I served as Co-Editor of POP along with Joe Kunkel, who previously was the sole editor. Beginning in 2004, I will become the sole editor of POP. For this reason, I am leaving my post as newsletter editor. I have enjoyed being able to publish timely issues of the newsletter in which professional philosophers respond to world events with critical acumen, passion, and eloquence.

Given my involvement with CPP since 1981, I was invited to write a history of our organization. This history has been published as “Concerned Philosophers For Peace (CPP)” in the Global Studies Encyclopedia, eds. I.I. Mazour, A.N. Chumakov, and W.C. Gay (Moscow: Raduga, 2003), pp. 80-82. Access is also available on the web: go to <;. For those of you who are new to the organization, this history may provide a useful introduction. I am very proud of the accomplishments of CPP. While I am ending my service as newsletter editor, I will remain just as involved in the organization. I think having new editors for the newsletter will add to the strength of the organization. Greg, Wendy, and Deb have my strong endorsement and my best wishes. I look forward to their continuation of the contributions of the newsletter, to their innovations, and to our on-going critical examination of some of the most crucial issues facing humanity.

CPP News CPP Newsletter Online V23

CPP News by Gail Presbey (2003)

Presbey, Gail (Univ. of Detroit-Mercy). "CPP News." CPP Newsletter Vol. 23, Nos. 1-2 (Spring-Fall 2003).

Although there were two nominations for president at the 2003 business meeting, both have since withdrawn their candidacies. Please submit nominations via e-mail by Dec. 15 to CPP Executive Director Gail Presbey: presbegm at udmercy dot edu

Treasurer’s report, Jerry Richards: CPP operating budget account has $4,884.88. This is the account out of which comes the funds to pay for the newsletter. We have around 64 dues paying members. The account is in good shape, with dues covering basic expenses. Rodopi PoP budget: $343.92.

New Treasurer: Jerry Richards is retiring from his university at the end of this academic year. So, the Executive Committee met and decided upon a new treasurer, who has agreed to serve. That person is Dave Boersema, and we are grateful for his taking on this important position. Dave will take over from Jerry on Jan. 1, 2004.

Next conference: University of North Carolina at Charlotte will host the next CPP conference. The theme is: “Globalization and its discontents: Implications for War, Peace, and Justice.” Subthemes include: competing definitions of globalization; the rich-poor dichotomy; NAFTA: U.S. – U.N. relations; Global ethics; movements against globalization; world music and culture.

Also, members should be thinking about whether they would like to host the next CPP conference in 2005 at their university.

Website: Dave Koukal has agreed to be CPP webmaster. He will be working on updating the CPP website.

PoP series with VIBS and Rodopi: Starting Jan. 1, 2004, Bill Gay will be the editor in charge, and both Joe Kunkel and Judith Presler will be assistant editors.

Papers from last year’s conference (2002, Walsh University) will be combined with papers from this year into a Rodopi PoP volume. The co-editors are Wendy Hamblet and Gail Presbey.

CPP at APA: Laura Duhan Kaplan has organized two CPP panels for the Eastern APA: one on War, Religion and Ethics; and one on World Federalism.

Ron Hirschbein is organizing a panel for the CPP at the Pacific Division; and Harry van der Linden is working on a panel for the Central Division. See the preview on page 15.

–News submitted by Gail Presbey, CPP Exec. Dir.

Articles CPP Newsletter Online V23

Two Scholarly Ideas by Jan Narveson

Narveson, Jan (Univ. of Waterloo, CANADA). "Two Scholarly Ideas for Peace in the Middle East." CPP Newsletter Vol. 23, Nos. 1-2 (Spring-Fall 2003).

We were, it seems, somewhere within sight of the road to peace in the Middle East – and then, as so often in the past, more bombs went off and things now look difficult again. Is there a way to get the process back into motion for real? I have two ideas about this.

One: There must be people on both sides interested in trying to get at the truth about the events, especially in the mid-twentieth century, that led up to the terrible standoff that has so long obtained between who we now call the “Palestinians”, together with the neighboring Arab people, and the Israelis.

My idea is that an informal commission be established, with an equal number (exactly equal) of Palestinians (or other Arabic scholars?) and Israeli scholars (or other Jewish scholars?), and an approximately (but not necessarily) equal number of “others”, who should be from places perceived as neutral, if there are any left (the Netherlands? Canada? Brazil?). What this committee would do is engage in much laborious research to sift through the evidence about disputed aspects of important events.

For example, approximately how many (if any) Arabic people were actually forced from their homes by the onset of modern Israel? Were international boundaries violated, and if so, by whom, and what was their claimed justification for doing so? Did anyone, in the war, commit what can incontrovertibly be regarded as “massacres”? And so on. My suggestion is that the people doing this research would be trying, sincerely, to reach agreement about the facts; and if that should prove impossible, to reach agreement about why and precisely where they disagree, and what would be needed to resolve the disagreement.

After quite a lot of such work, or even perhaps periodically as it proceeded, when agreement was reached, this should be publicized, in hopes of encouraging people, who have biased their attitudes toward one or the other “side”, to abandon misconceptions that have been proven mistaken. Possibly this could do quite a lot of good in the way of enabling people to look to the future with a better information base. I also suggest that this committee’s work be funded entirely by non-governmental sources, and secondly by people, again in preferably just about equal amounts, from both sides (with further funding from neutral sources far away, perhaps including Americans.) Perhaps in America, a sort of financial overseeing committee can be set up to enable funds to be secured from both the Arabic and the Jewish communities, again in equal amounts. All the funding, of course, should be handled in such a way that no contributor can expect that research supporting his side of the controversy will be favored.

Two: The cost of the ongoing confrontation, to both the Israeli and the Arabic people in the area, must be tremendous. It would be useful to be able to put real dollar figures on this. To that end, I would again propose a smaller committee, made up of economists from both sides, to make credible estimates of just how much wealthier people on both sides would have been had they been able to live at peace and have normal economic relations all these years.

Even if we just begin with the first year of the Intifada, the figures are surely enormous, probably staggering. People ought to know this. They ought to know that continued support, or even toleration, or those who engage in violence is not free. It costs people jobs and livings, as well as lives. Both of these more or less scholarly type endeavours could, I think, do a lot to promote peace in the Middle East.

Articles CPP Newsletter Online V23

Murderous Dichotomies by Wendy Hamblet

Hamblet, Wendy (Adelphi Univ.) “Murderous Dichotomies: Exposing the Logic of Violence.” CPP Newsletter Vol. 23, Nos. 1-2 (Spring-Fall 2003).

Most people would agree that the murder of one’s own kind is an evil act. Yet the history of humankind on earth stands as overwhelming proof that people somehow have always managed, and still today continue to manage, to stomach perpetrating such “evil” acts upon others of their species without even the risk of bad conscience. And contrary to facile understandings of violence, very few cases of radical evil involve the least degree of sadistic pleasure for the agent. These stark simultaneous facts—that murder continues to happen, but people do not suffer bad conscience, nor do they enjoy murdering—suggests a well-evolved ability, developed throughout the millennia of human time on earth, that enables perpetrators to redefine their “evil” acts as “otherwise than evil.”

Scholars of diverse disciplines direct their research toward unraveling the mystery of understanding the continuing violence in a world that pretends the loftiest of ideals of peace and justice and human community. Clearly an immense gap divides the lofty intentions and ideals of human beings from the bare facts of bloody history; a history that, despite our increasing understanding of the forces that propel and legitimate violence, has only grown bloodier over time.

Plenty of reasons have been discovered to explain why societies have grown more violent over the last century—the alienating effects of modern industrial societies, the breakdown of family values, and even, in many minds, the erosion of religious values (a questionable factor since religious nations, including those of the “enlightened” West, tend to be the most violent societies in the world). Violence increases over time, concomitantly with another growing reality—the gap between rich and poor. The disparity between the living standards in rich Western nations and those in Third World countries gapes wider every year. Even within the rich Western nations, more people fall below the poverty line each year. These economic free-falls across the globe create pockets of frustration and resentment that linger in festering bitterness until they finally manifest themselves in violent outbursts.

The fact that Just War Theory exists to guide leaders in their assessment of the rightness or wrongness of conflicts proves that many people find some forms of communal violence legitimate, and others illegitimate. This demonstrates that there must exist some mysterious way of thinking about intraspecies murder that permits us to see it as sometimes fair and just. Under certain historical conditions, then, people must find it possible to redefine murder as good, or at least as the best available option.

Peace activists refuse to go that far, holding that no war can be just. To take up mass murder, even as a tool against another evil, is to join the ranks of the enemy and betray one’s moral reasons for action. Martin Luther King, Jr., neatly articulates the paradox that gives rise to the peace activist’s insight: “Nations engage in the madness of war without the slightest sense of penitence. The murder of a citizen of your own nation is a crime but the murder of citizens of another nation in war is an act of heroic virtue.” Philosophers tend to focus upon definitions, so this redefining that turns murder from a crime to a heroic virtue, when the “face” of the victim changes, is a source of discomfiting fascination. And wars, over the last century, have increasingly targeted the “faces” of innocent civilians, with less and less concern for the growing number of civilian casualties, and more and more impunity for the officials that sanction those deaths.

We don’t do body counts,” states General Tommy Franks of the USA military. More and more it becomes crucial that philosophers seek to clarify and illuminate the logic that permits this redefinition to occur. It is essential that we understand how the very symbols by which we understand self and world come to be ordered such that these redefinitions permit conscience-free murder. How is it that people find themselves capable of defining the same act as, in the one case, criminal, and in the other, heroic?

Anthropologists, those students of human truth, have been exceedingly instrumental in helping us to understand how violences were justified in the dawn of human time. Walter Burkert, René Girard, and a host of other experts on human culture, religion and violence, tell us that the first human communities made sense of their environments by employing violence as an important ordering mechanism. Early hominoids ordered their chaotic and threatening worlds by positing “dual containers” into which they sorted the confusing empirical data of their experiences: friend/ foe; good/ evil; divine/ demonic and so on. One container for the nice experiences, the other for the threatening.

The logic that ordered the symbols was simple—help friends and murder enemies. When something new appeared on the horizon of the lifeworld, something unknown that could not readily be embraced within the comfortable understandings of the community, it would be placed in the “evil” container to be dealt with through ritual violence—murder sacrifice, metaphorical murder of torture, or expulsion from the community. The communal murder of some visibly different other (the village idiot, the physically deformed, an unlucky stranger—anyone who is both inside and yet an outsider, without social resources to avenge his death) brought conflicted parties within the social group together. Murder, when shared by the entire community, could be a very unifying and consolidating event.

This archaic method of making sense of the world and ordering the group proved most effective, providing the community with what Walter Burkert calls a “common mental world,” and so it came to be repeated at any time that the community fell into social chaos. Over time, the murder ritual evolved to serve the manifold functions of communal life, eventually spawning the full spectrum of prohibitions and prescriptions that composed the legal, political, economic and social customs and institutions that structured the lifeworld of the social group. The symbols were simple: what was not ours (good) was alien and threatening (evil). And the logic ordering the symbols was simple: help friends and murder enemies. The symbols and logic, tell the experts on violence, remained constant over time, conveyed and reinforced from generation to generation through repetition of the murder rituals. Over millennia in the early history of the human species, these rituals were pervasive.

Though intelligent people today have overcome the tendency toward oversimplified, radically polarized understandings of self and world, at a very deep level of our being, in our assumptions about right and wrong, good and evil, that tendency remains a latent potentiality. Thus there lingers the constant danger that, during times of social upheaval, people may revert to this archaic way of making sense of the confusing data of experience. This is largely because this logic very effectively serves a double benefit: it renders the chaotic starkly clear and simple, making reality easy to understand, with no thinking necessary. Easy sortings of phenomena into “good” and “evil” illuminates the source of social chaos for easy murder, even as it simultaneously purifies the community of responsibility and guilt by projecting the chaos at work within the community onto alien (and usually defenseless) others.

In my curiosity to discover how popular the two containers remain, how many people still revert to simple dichotomies as a way of making sense of the world, I went to the world wide web and searched the phrase “two kinds of people.” I got 2,018,504 “hits.” Many of these, as the anthropologists of violence have asserted, are consistent with a “religious worldview.” It seems St. Paul uses the simple dichotomy to understand the human struggle against sin. How one manages this struggle gives rise to two possible courses of life to be lived. St. Augustine posits two kinds of people according to two kinds of love, giving rise to two kinds of communities, (the good heavenly city and its evil earthly counterpart). Then there was what I will call the more “Protestant” dichotomy of two kinds of human beings—the hard-working, honest and reliable, and those others who are shiftless and worthless. Then there was the distinction between “spiritual seekers” and “domestic cleaners.” Apparently, people are seeking something to fulfill their spiritual needs, and then, once they feel they have found something fulfilling, they spend their energies cleaning and polishing it. Another dichotomy separates the world into those the god talks to and those he does not. The former group splits again into the Jerry Falwells, the Oral Roberts’s and the Pat Robertsons, over against the paranoid schizophrenics (though I am not convinced that the latter is a legitimate split).

Then some people split the world into the have’s from the have-nots; that one I found particularly convincing. Others see the world as a dichotomy between those motivated by freedom and those motivated by security, reminiscent of the famed article by Jonathan Z. Smith, separating people into the adventurous and fearless (the Greeks are the example cited), and those shivering behind the walls of their fortressed cities and practicing elaborate war rituals (like the Babylonians). One wonders whether the choice of examples does not reflect an ethnocentric bias, since the Hellenic ancestors of the Western imperialist spirit, though a culture equally lush in war ritual, come out ahead as colonial heroes rather than butcherous and fearful barbarians Despite the remarkable number of “hits,” some dichotomies didn’t make the list. Peace activists, for example, make a distinction between those with actual intelligence and those with “military” intelligence, those who support just war and those who just support war, those who love freedom and those who love their freedom, and those who believe in the right of free speech over against those who believe in free speech until someone says something they don’t like.

So it would seem that even in the rational, scientific, allegedly secular modern world, the employment of simple dichotomies reminiscent of the archaic worldview remains extremely popular as a means of making simple sense of a disordered world. Simple polar dichotomies have in fact risen in popularity in the past year and a half, triggered, as always, by a chaotic event—the September 11th crisis. They have, in fact, been publicly promoted because they have proven highly politically functional in the chaotic aftermath of the crisis, giving terrified people a quick and easy way of making sense of their threatened world, while conveniently dispensing with the usual need for rational inquiry and debate.

The popular dichotomy began with Mr. Bush’s war cry to his people and the world: “you’re either with us or against us.” The cry soon morphed into a more demonizing form: “you’re either with us or you’re with the terrorists.” This logical tactic was so quickly popularized that it soon spawned the grander dichotomy that took the form of a conflict of civilizations—America as the “beacon of freedom and opportunity” over against an “axis of evil”—a move that, in one fell swoop, posited the USA as an innocent victim over against the dark and hazy world of terrorism, focused in three “evil” geographical locations. This new dichotomous worldview effectively alienated a large mass of the world’s population. In reality, however, it attempts to posit a cosmic truth, as does any worldview—the enlightened, scientific, rational, democratic, freedom-loving West over against a decadent, backward, poor, repressed, ignorant uncivilized otherness—mostly an Arab otherness, but the Koreans could be thrown in for good measure, (though the Koreans make a less functional scapegoat since their murder doesn’t pay off in any coveted treasures and they are not without those “familial resources” that would mitigate against the assurance of murder without reprisal).

Despite the thousands of Afghani civilians sacrificed to the cause of vengeance, the good crusaders failed to “get their man” in the caves of Afghanistan. Now, through some wondrous miracle of conceptual fraud, a new demonic face has replaced that of Bin Ladin, and this has permitted a new war to be launched by the avenging forces of good. The dust has barely cleared from the cluster bombs that ravaged Afghanistan and the corpses of their innocent civilians have barely been laid to rest, when a new war against a new evil has spawned a new dichotomy: “You’re either with the war against Iraq or you’re against the USA troops.” This too is an utterly false dichotomy. Putting aside the fact that the voices who are now calling for “support of the troops” are the same as those who knowingly and in conscience-free fashion exposed previous Gulf War troops to deadly depleted uranium, it is clear that those who really are concerned about the welfare of the troops would remove them from the way of physical and moral harm, by removing them from the site of a dangerous, illegal and unjust war.

However, rational arguments count for little with terrorized people, and the American people, constantly bombarded with red and orange alerts and panicked warnings of anthrax and other threats, have been kept in a state of terror since September 11, 2001. So it has been easy for the powers manipulating their fears to keep them locked in the oversimplified, radically polarized worldview that continues to legitimate murder rituals by carving up reality into two neat little parcels—the good guys and the evil others. It seems that Oscar Wilde was right when he said: “There are two kinds of people—those who think there are two kinds of people, and those who don’t.” For people who believe there are only two kinds of people, chances are that one of those “kinds” comes up acceptable, and the other comes up wanting. Such dichotomies remain faithful to archaic conceptualizations of world and continue to convey a logic that legitimates the murder of alien others from a position of purified belongingness.

The fact is that the convenient dichotomy of pure good over against pure evil is refuted by everyday experience. Evil is an altogether common event but it rarely arrives on the earthly scene unmixed with the good; even the gods are busy perpetrating “natural evils” in earthquakes, floods, aging, disease, and death. Human evil can occur in the best of families, as the overzealous parenting and the overbearing control that manifests itself in physical and emotional scars. And evil can show up in the best of nations under the sacred rubric of patriotism and national security. Terrorism and racism, imperialisms and fascisms can take deep root in a culture that sees its innocence under attack by evil others. Add a vengeful god into the logical mix and you have a recipe for conscience-free massacre.

Evil can hardly be separated, let alone purified, from the human condition. In fact, that little of evil that is avoidable generally comes about as a result of the moralizing gesture that demonizes difference in order to purify those spaces of innocence. The language and the logic of demonic contamination are very, very old, very insidious, and very seductive. They creep into our psyches when we are feeling most vulnerable and point the bloody way to order and security, while assuring the purification of the moralizer.

The first step toward breaking the false dichotomy of good versus evil and frustrating the consequent, moralizing gesture, comes with the classic philosophical move of self-examination—locating the sources of evil in the ambiguities of the self and in the sites of its deepest loyalties. It is difficult to remain self-righteous and moralizing toward others once one is exposed to the fact of one’s own morally ambiguous histories. And all people, all families, all villages and nations, no matter how elaborate their myths of innocence, have skeletons in their historical closets. Exposure of those dark secrets can be humbling to the individual and to the social group.

At this point in history, when the logic of the demonic other has found such ready reception in the hearts of so many Americans, stoking the fires of an unhealthy patriotism and rallying the god behind wars of revenge, it is important that voices within the academy not fall prey to the demonizing rhetoric, and take seriously their duty to their students—to supply them with a language and a conceptual framework that will allow reason rather than terrorized emotion to configure their thinking about current affairs. Recent histories of American foreign policy serve well this humbling rethinking of American myths of innocence. Many voices of conscience, from Noam Chomsky to Howard Zinn have been warning that America’s moral high ground has long been eroding. John Stockwell, high ranking CIA official turned critic-informant, has publicly exposed what he calls the CIA’s “War against the Third World,” one of the bloodiest and goriest wars in history directed at the poor peasants of Third World countries.

The dirty wars and covert actions that have, for more than five decades, been supporting American big business interests in the Third World through the most despicable of means (funding and training death squads, hiring Mafia and Nazis for secret assassination plots, payrolling drug lords for decades, deposing democratically elected leaders, and massacring its people if they attempted to nationalize their own resources) has eroded world confidence in American “innocence.” This “War against the Third World” has thus far taken the lives of over six million people from every continent of the globe, but its costs have been far greater than a corpse count can indicate: it has damaged American prestige in the world, it has cost global confidence in the purity of American intentions, it has cost the trust and admiration of friends and allies and, now, it has undermined the viability of the United Nations to effectively deal with global injustices.

One might wonder how is it that Americans have managed to maintain their myths of purity while the facts of their dirty dealings in the Third World have been coming to the fore in world news for decades—in the exposure of the Tonkin Bay fraud, the My Lai massacre, the Church Committee of 1987, and now the depleted uranium scandal of the first Gulf War? There is an easy answer to this mystery: the powers that have stood behind those dirty wars are aligned with the powers that control the media. Together they have kept the people distracted by keeping national attention focused—on the sins of others.

The average American knows well every blow by blow account of the O. J. Simpson trial, every illicit sexual encounter in the Oval Office. But she knows little of the ties between Reagan, Bush and the infamous drug lord Noriega, jailed in the USA for having the audacity to turn upon the hand that fed him and entertain southern leaders that sought to limit American interests in their nations’ affairs and resources.

The current invasion of Iraq may look like a new confrontation triggered by a new demon, radical Islamic terrorism. However, the present war has distinct consistencies with the string of atrocities committed in the name of murdering similar convenient demons in the Congo, Vietnam, Laos, Campuccia, Chile, Nicaragua, Iran, Panama, and, my personal favorite of the horror stories, Guatemala.

The new dichotomy of “beacon of freedom and opportunity” over against an “axis of evil” is also not so new. It stems from a much older dichotomy, one that served the CIA well in rallying support for their bloody schemes, since the end of World War II. This is another utterly false dichotomy that has yet to receive the scholarly attention it deserves, largely because historians of American history continue to teach purified forms of American “history” that keeps the seductive dichotomy intact and so its dangerous symbols grow more and more rooted every year, even in the academy.

The older dichotomy claims that there are two kinds of communities, based on two kinds of economic logic–capitalist and communist. Capitalism is associated with freedom, democracy, wealth, decent living conditions and enlightenment, while communism is associated with Russia and Stalin and oppression and torture and general poverty. This dichotomy served American (business) interests well. But demonizing communism served an important function: it purified the meaning of capitalism. Capitalism became the epitome of all good, free things over against its evil repressive opponent.

This too is an utterly false dichotomy. Not simply because we have never witnessed true communism instituted in the world, but because communism is not the antithesis of democracy; communism and capitalism compose two forms of “democratic” institution (from the Greek demos, the people, and kratein, to rule—that is, rule by the people). One could argue that communism, could it be effectively instituted, would be more democratic and more free than capitalism, since capitalism invariably signifies a hierarchy of wealth where inequalities compose the very structure of the system, and where the many struggle without adequate shares in the “common wealth” of the nation, one can hardly call a people free.

The myth that capitalism ensures freedom remains forcefully and functionally intact to maintain the false dichotomy of capitalism versus communism in the minds of many Westerners. However, capitalism is no guarantee of freedom for the people under its thrall—not economic freedom for the mass of people, not political freedom (as was made clear in America’s last presidential [s]election); not legal freedom (or the POW’s of Guantanamo Bay would be protected by their rights under the Geneva Conventions to receive humane treatment); not freedom from racial prejudice (or 12,000 Arabs would not have been detained September 12th without due process and without due cause beyond their racial profile); not freedom to speak, meet, act, express difference of opinion, enjoy right to privacy (or the freedom-defining amendments to the constitution would not be under attack by the Patriot Act).

Capitalism is not dedicated to the freedom of people; it is dedicated to the freedom of capital, the freedom of big business. Capital is freest when it moves about without obstruction, unencumbered by the pesky concerns of human rights (decent wages and conditions for workers), or national rights to ownership or ecological safeguards. Capital flows more freely when rules and regulations, taxes and tariffs don’t impede its flow. And where does it flow? The route is clear: capital travels from the poorest of the poor countries, to the richest of the rich countries, stopping en route to reward the leaders of each who protect its flow.

I have just repeated another dichotomy: I have posited rich Western nations over against poor Third World countries. This too is an utterly false dichotomy. Third World countries are not poor; they are rich in resources, a reality proven by the fact of their colonial rape in centuries past, and their continuing neocolonial rape in the global economy. The fact that big business is interested in them at all shows that it is not the countries that are poor. It is the people of those countries that are poor, because their countries’ resources and their labor potential are being strip-mined by rich Western corporations. This is happening because there are no safeguards protecting ecological and human interests; all the safeguards governing world trade are directed toward the free flow of capital, not the interests of those without capital.

It is our task as educators, as parents, and as responsible citizens of a country where, at least for now, we can continue to speak freely, to break these false dichotomies and help our young wards to develop an alternative language and a healthier conceptual framework that will enable them to think more rationally about current affairs. We must help them to understand the true roots of terrorism, not in the demonized religions of foreigners, but in the frustration and humiliation and the hopeless poverty effected by the neocolonial stranglehold of Western corporate hegemony.

Wherever people’s lives are rendered unlivable, there festers a hotbed that breeds religious fundamentalism, which preaches martyrdom, holy war, and death to infidels for the price of a better world for their children and the heavenly rewards of a transcendental gift system that promises greater justice than its earthly counterpart. If we want to break the cycles of violence that now engulf the globe, it is crucial that we expose the real cause of terrorism, the huge gap between the have’s and the have-not’s of this world, instead of rallying terrorism to increase that gap and justify the big business of war against demonized others.